Suppose you wanted to convey quite a bit of information to someone in front of you, with the objective of being able to make that person absorb as much of that information as possible. One thing you can do is state all the facts in the most interesting way possible, hoping this person will stay focused on your words. There are consequences, though. Your conversation has the risk of ending early, since the information may enter one ear and get out of the other, depending on the interest level of the person. With no processing, the flow of ideas stutter in mid air, and useful information may go to waste. We want the other person to take full advantage of the information that he is receiving.
Another way of doing it is through strategic questioning. What happens when we ask a question? First is we are able to stimulate conversation. This will allow a better flow of information between two or more parties. Secondly, when we ask a question, it can arouse interest, engage the thinking faculties of a person, sparking comments, sharing of personal experiences, and opinion from the other party. When we question, we can introduce an important and relevant thought without wasting any valuable information, craftily driving the conversation as we go along.
In the classroom setting, a teacher may want to cover one chapter of a certain textbook. If she throws that book at his sleepy students, tell them to read the whole chapter, and lecture about the same thing all over again, she might just be overloading the students with so much data that useful information is wasted.
What if she extracts the essential point of the chapter, and asks a relevant, thought provoking question instead? If she is able to strategically construct that question well, she would be able spark interest, and get very interesting comments and opinions which she can use to facilitate the conversation. She can allow the class to listen to the experiences of other students about the topic. This allows them to think and dissect information. She can listen intently, aknowledge good points and correct inaccurate comments. She can challenge the class with follow up questions. She can refer to other points in the textbook or reference material, and use them to strengthen ideas generated through out the conversation. In some cases, she can also ask someone from the class to demonstrate a good point. She can allow students to rebute, debate and ask questions or even ask each other questions. This represents a good flow of bite sized information that students can chew well.
By the end of the class, the teacher would sift, synthesize, summarize and would have covered the whole chapter without lecturing about the material, but just by engagement. More importantly, information is not wasted. Instead of a single source of information, the teacher becomes the facilitator and curator of knowledge.
To summarize, teaching by questioning goes through these steps:
Initiation - arousing interest by introducing important information by questioning strategically
Conversation - collect comments, experience, opinions and preference, engaging the student minds - allowing the students to question the teacher and each other
Demonstration - allow students to demonstrate how they interpret the material
Reference - cite facts and related information, going back to the source or core of the information
Synthesis - facilitate, sift and summarize information with the objective of covering the intended material
Are we maximizing information in the classroom by engaging the thinking faculties of the students?